SI.com's Guide to the 53rd Daytona 500
The Daytona 500 can propel a driver to prominence, just ask Jamie McMurray, the surprise winner of the 2010 event. It's probably the only race that comes close to matching the accomplishment of winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. It is also the start of a grueling 36-race season that ends four days before Thanksgiving.
An iconic name will be the focus of Sunday's race. It has been 10 years since Dale Earnhardt was killed in the last turn of the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. NASCAR is honoring the seven-time Cup champion with a moment of silence on the third lap of Sunday's race.
It's a spectacular way for NASCAR to start its season, and what follows are some other storylines worth noting at the 53rd Daytona 500.
As far as Earnhardt's new starting spot, if he finds the right drafting partner, he can be back to the front by the 20-lap mark. In a restrictor-plate race, cars drop to the back and make it back to the front several times throughout the race. In this case, Earnhardt's job just got a little harder but not impossible.
Keep in mind that it was Harvick who took over the car at Richard Childress Racing following Earnhardt's death. While there has been plenty of focus and fan sentiment for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win, there are plenty of old-school racers who would like to see team owner Richard Childress return to Victory Lane.
In nine Daytona 500 starts, Harvick has four top-five and five top-10 finishes. He was 12th last year but with a new style of racing at Daytona, Harvick has other fast teammates in Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard to work with in the race.
But what Harvick really has is the instinct that is necessary to succeed in this high-risk, high-reward race.
As with teammate Harvick, Bowyer has ECR engines. For him it'll be a matter of making the right moves at the right time to be in the right two-car pack at the end of the race. Bowyer has just as good a chance as anyone to take the checkered flag.